Remember when tomatoes tasted like tomatoes? No? Well…you may have to be of a certain age. Today, the only time tomatoes come close to tasting like the real thing is during the harvest season when field tomatoes are available.
FYI: According to a New York Times article, scientists have recently discovered “a genetic reason that diminishes a tomato’s flavor even if the fruit is picked ripe and coddled.” Briefly, producers, appealing to consumers who wanted lush red tomatoes, unwittingly bred in a mutation that reduces the sugars that contributed to the tomato taste. Sigh.
So…back in my kitchen where I’ve purchased baskets of field tomatoes whose lives will end in my soup pot.
In the early days of this blog, I posted a family favourite soup in which a small amount of peanut butter, rather than cream, was added to reduce the acidity of the tomatoes and make it okay for the lactose-intolerant. Now I’ve upgraded the original recipe by adding a dollop of cooked quinoa for some healthy protein and crunch.
This soup is creamy, rich, and delicious—hot or cold.
You are likely to think I’m not quite in my right mind to be making a stew using winter vegetables in the summer. But, honestly, there’s a method to my madness. Some of you may recall my post about cooking for stays on our boat. We have a barbecue on the stern rail where the captain can grill meats and vegetables, but I also prepare food in advance so that we can have variety and I don’t have to toil in the miniscule galley.
FYI: My husband is the captain, and I am first mate and cook. When we’re on the boat, we share about 300 square feet of living space. How does this work maritally? Well, he has a shirt that says “Captain,” and I have a shirt that says “Don’t Yell at Me!” Generally, the atmosphere is very pleasant although there have been moments…but back to the stew.
So, as you can see, it isn’t so crazy to make a tasty, filling, healthy, and crazy-quilt colourful pork stew whose leftovers can be frozen and then eaten when floating at anchor. This recipe takes some chopping but it’s worth it!
Tabouli is a wonderful dish. It’s delicious and healthy for you, textured with crunch and snap, and has a lovely smell, dominated by fresh parsley, green onions, and lemon.
Still, from a weight watcher’s perspective, tabouli has problems. It can be heavy in carbohydrates if the ratio between quinoa and vegetables leans towards the quinoa. And many recipes call for more oil than a dieter would want.
How, I wondered, could I make this more of a diet dish while still retaining the tabouli goodness? My solution was to cut the oil dramatically and add new crunchy vegetables, snow peas and green beans, to the classic ingredients of tomato, cucumber, parsley, and green onions. I’m now thinking that I could have also added baby bok choy; I’ll try that next time and let you know.
The Diet Equation: vegetables + vegetables + vegetables
The Solution: soup + soup + soup
So Very Vegetable Soup with Grated Sheep Romano
So Very Vegetable Soup was my first soup creation and, after some tweaking, I pronounced it good—tasty, satisfying, and filled with different textures because some ingredients are crunchy while others are softer. Then it turned out to be extra-good when I added a dollop of goat cheese or a sprinkling of sheep romano cheese to a serving.
This soup is easy to make (except for lots of chopping), is foolproof (except if overcooked), and has so much fiber, you don’t have to worry about the carbs. You can eat all you want with no weighing or measuring. Or you can enrich the soup by adding potatoes, peas or legumes. A can of lentils, in particular, really enhance the taste. But remember: additions like this will bring you back into the world of diet calculations.
So Very Vegetable Soup + Lentils
Caveat culinaria/us: The vegetable quantities below are rough estimates because I take an everything-but-the-kitchen-sink approach and just put in what I have. You can add more of one vegetable and less of another, but you should aim for balance. For example, too many carrots could make the soup too carroty and too sweet.
- 3-5 cups of chicken stock, broth, or bouillon to barely cover the vegetables. The amount really depends on how many vegetables you’ve added.
- 1-2 onion(s), chopped. Any type will do.
- Garlic to taste. I add 2 tbsp. of chopped garlic.
- 28 oz. can of diced tomatoes
- 2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
- ¼ – ½ head of cabbage, chopped to bite-size pieces
- 1-2 tsp. of a spice that appeals to you. I find that parsley, thyme or basil works nicely.
- Salt to taste.
Other Vegetables You Can Add
- 2-4 celery stalks, sliced. You can leave on the leaves as well.
- 1 parsnip, peeled and sliced
- 2-4 green zucchini, sliced
- 2-4 yellow zucchini, sliced (Add halfway through cooking so this vegetable survives.)
- 1 cup broccoli florets
- 1 cup cauliflower florets
- 1 cup turnip or rutabaga, diced
- 1 cup daikon or lo bok, diced
- 1-2 cups bok choy, chopped
- Beets may overpower the taste of other vegetables, not to mention the colour of the soup.
- Mushrooms give off a liquid when cooking that could alter the balance of the soup. I suggest mild mushrooms such as enoki.
- Spinach, because of its consistency, would have to be cooked separately, chopped, and added at the end.
- Chop vegetables beforehand.
- Turn heat under a large pot to high.
- Add 1 cup of the chicken broth.
- Add garlic, onions, and all other vegetables.
- Add canned tomatoes and mix well.
- Add more chicken broth until vegetables are barely covered. You want the soup to be chock-full of vegetables.
- Add spice(s).
- Bring soup to boil, then turn down heat until it is simmering.
- Taste to see if you need to add salt. Start with 1 tbsp. and then taste, and so on. My salt philosophy is to cook with it sparingly and let people add their own after being served.
- Cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
For Weight Watchers: 0 points on both the Points and PointsPlus plan. If you’re dieting under the Points plan, you don’t have to worry about carrots or parsnip unless you plan to eat all the soup in one sitting! The quantity of soup will be so great that any individual bowl serving won’t have enough of either to count.